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2017-03-16
Learning to be Sociable — Social Skills Development in Children
An interview with May Henderson, Bebegarten Learning Support Coordinator

As a child develops their social skills, they develop their play skills which provide the opportunity to practice their language skills. So speech, language and social skills are all closely linked, which makes it important for children to grasp a good social and interaction skills. But what if the child is having difficulties in this area? May Henderson, our Speech and Language Therapist, provides us with her insight.

Hi May, apart from speech and language skills, why is the acquisition of social skills important in early years development?

Social skills are crucial for the development of friendships and relationships. Children use these skills to interact with peers and adults. Social skills allow children to get their needs met through requesting and rejecting. As a child develops their social skills, they develop their play skills which provide the opportunity to practice their language skills. So speech, language and social skills are all closely linked.

How can we develop social skills in children?

Social skills develop at an early age and include, for example, using eye-contact with a care giver, sharing attention with an adult and making requests.

This develops into turn taking and play skills which allow children to interact with other children. Non-verbal skills such as eye-contact, facial expressions, use and understanding of emotion are all part of social skills.

Essentially, social skills are the skills needed to interact with others to form positive relationships.

Is having play dates / joining playgroup enough for children to develop social skills?

Children need lots of opportunities to play with other children of a similar age, and for most children these activities are a great way to develop social skills. Playing with others provides opportunities for children to practice turn taking and sharing skills, they will learn how to negotiate and to compromise. Children will practice their non-verbal skills too. However children with additional needs such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and developmental delay may need additional specific instruction in the area of social skills.

If a child loves to play by him/herself, can he/she be just quiet and shy or need additional help?

If your child appears to be uninterested in other children or adults, and often take themselves away to play on their own or avoid interactions, this may indicate social interaction difficulties. As a child gets older, they may have difficulty making friends or playing cooperatively.

How can Bebegarten support parents who are concerned about their children isolating themselves?

Bebegarten’s Social Plus programme is designed to provide targeted support to children with specific difficulties who require social stimulation and/or would benefit from some support and strategies to boost their social skills. It aims to support children who may have developmental disorders such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, developmental delay or others to learn and practice social skills in realistic activities.

How can parents help develop children’s social skills? What activities do you suggest they do at home with children?

It is important to interact with your baby from a young age. Ensure you use eye-contact, respond to their needs and play with your baby. As your child grows up you can develop their play skills in different environments by modelling how to play, share and take turns. Playing with your child and encouraging them to play with others are also very important.

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